A giant pale pastel green banner flaps over West Broadway.
To Francophiles and unreformed macaronaholics, the color alone is enough to trigger Pavlovian drooling for the froufrou confections within.
The minty turquoise shade heralds the arrival in Soho of Ladurée, the venerable Parisian pâtisserie. Outside, a velvet rope stands at the ready, just in case there's a run on salted caramel macarons or those lovely mountains of chestnut cream, mont blancs.
No such crowd materializes on this frigid day. But inside, past the retail counter with its serenely back-lit wall of pastries and pretty boxes, the tufted royal blue banquettes of the snug dining room are nearly at capacity.
Posh ladies with expensive cheekbones drink tea. Sleepy-looking men in turtleneck sweaters call for the check. There's striped wallpaper on the ceiling, and a sweet French server with her hair pinned back is asking if the omelet with morels should be runny or dry? A man in purple tweed pants says to his lunch-mate, "Is this chick heaven, or is this chick heaven?"
Soho hasn't been Soho for so long that it's quaint nostalgia to wonder what the hell happened to this once grungy part of town. Better not to overthink it. Order a glass of wine and some foie gras ($21), ringed in golden fat and served with buttery slices of toasted kougloff, and (why not?) half a macaron.
There are better macarons in Paris (hello, Pierre Hermé) but none so iconic as Ladurée, which has been in the sweets business depuis 1862. And just when you think we're living in a post-macaron world, the man in the purple pants says to the sweet server: "Is that French for macaroni?"
Really, he did. This place is weird, but it's a sweet fantasy, and it works, and we kind of dig it.
Please check your inbox to verify your email address.